With Cloudy Wyoming Skies Expected, Good Luck Seeing Rare Parade Of Planets

When six of the solar system’s eight planets, and a crescent moon, align in Tuesday's early morning pre-dawn sky, Wyomingites will likely see nothing but clouds moving in from the Pacific Northwest.

Andrew Rossi

June 03, 20244 min read

When a rare alighment of six planets appear in the early morning pre-dawn skies over Wyoming on Tuesday, most in the state won't be able to see this Parade of Plaents because of cloud cover.
When a rare alighment of six planets appear in the early morning pre-dawn skies over Wyoming on Tuesday, most in the state won't be able to see this Parade of Plaents because of cloud cover. (Getty Images)

An incredible Parade of Planets will be visible in the early morning Wyoming skies Tuesday morning. At least the rare phenomenon would be visible if it weren’t for an expected blanket of clouds to block the parade.

Six planets and a crescent moon will stretch diagonally across the sky around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, the first time such an alignment has been visible in at least 30 years.

"Every once in a while, we get a lucky alignment of the planets in the evening or morning sky," said Max Gilbraith, planetarium coordinator for the University of Wyoming. "It's a rare chance to see so much of our solar system."

Unfortunately, the forecast for Tuesday's early morning hours isn't very promising. Most of Wyoming will be covered by clouds while the celestial saga unfolds.

"Completely clear skies would be great, but we're not going to have that in most of the state," said Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day.

Cloud Covered Cosmos

Day said Wyoming has been experiencing its own parade of weather patterns from the Pacific Northwest for the last two months. That's why there will be cloudy skies Tuesday.

"The Pacific has thrown out these fronts going back to early April," he told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. "The state's going to be about 60% covered in high and mid-level clouds overnight and tomorrow morning."

Day said there could be some breaks in the cloudy skies for Wyomingites to glimpse the Parade of Planets, but there's no telling when or where those pockets will appear. Day didn't want to discourage anyone from trying to see the rare planetary alignment, but the forecast doesn't indicate good chances of seeing the parade.

"If the cloud prediction for 5 a.m. (Tuesday) morning is correct, which is suspect," he said, "it looks like eastern and parts of central Wyoming have the best chance for breaks in the clouds. There's definitely going to be more clouds in the Northeast and the Southwest areas of the state."

A Hard Sight To See

Cloudy skies covering the cosmos during a Parade of Planets might be frustrating for Wyoming's astronomical enthusiasts. However, the full parade will be challenging to see even with a perfectly clear sky.

When the Parade of Planets appears Tuesday morning, Jupiter and Mercury will be so close to the horizon that their light will be completely obscured by the light of the rising sun.

"Pre-dawn light washes out the sky and makes the densest objects difficult to see," Gilbraith said. "The sun's passing at a high angle in the north creates a lot of skyglow in the early morning."

In addition, Jupiter and Mercury will be in conjunction, where the two celestial bodies are so close to each other that they appear as one object in the night sky. That means the individual planets will be even more challenging to spot.

Meanwhile, Uranus and Neptune are always so dim that they can only be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Only Mars and Saturn will be easy to spot in the early morning light.

The good news for anyone who misses this Parade of Planets is that astronomers are already forecasting others within the next year. Gilbraith said a similar spectacle with fewer planets should be visible on Aug. 28, and all seven of the other planets will be visible in a Parade of Parents on Feb. 28, 2025.

"It takes several months for the planets to catch up with each other, and sometimes they're on the other side of the sun out of place," he said. "It's rare to see them like this, but there will be other chances."

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter

Andrew Rossi is a features reporter for Cowboy State Daily based in northwest Wyoming. He covers everything from horrible weather and giant pumpkins to dinosaurs, astronomy, and the eccentricities of Yellowstone National Park.